Can’t conclude that tax cuts pay for themselves

taxcuts“The business boom predicted by tax cut advocates has not happened, and it certainly has not come remotely close to offsetting the static revenue loss from the legislated tax cuts,” Howard Gleckman wrote in Forbes magazine about Kansas’ declining tax revenues and sluggish economy. Gleckman concluded: “One can argue whether cutting taxes is a good thing. One can argue about whether government is too big. One can even argue about whether low taxes increase business activity. But one cannot credibly argue that tax cuts increase revenue or even pay for themselves.” Another Forbes contributor, David Brunori, argued that while Gov. Sam Brownback oversold the short-term benefits of the tax cuts, it “may be too early to know if the Kansas experiment is a long-term failure.”

Orman ad likely resonates with Kansans

orman,gregGreg Orman faces long odds running as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas. But a campaign advertisement he released last week likely will resonate with many Kansans. It shows red and blue teams competing in a muddy tug-of-war contest. “Washington’s stuck between two parties who care more about winning than they care about our country,” Orman says in the ad, adding that “most Kansans just want government to live within its means and stop telling the rest of us how to live our lives.”

Davis endorsements a ‘RINO stampede’?

elephantfightThe national political media, including some opinionated observers, lit up over Tuesday’s endorsement by dozens of Kansas Republicans of Democrat Paul Davis for governor. “RINO stampede in Kansas,” declared American Thinker. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne tweeted: “What’s the matter with #Kansas? 104 Republicans oppose Gov. Sam #Brownback because his tax cuts went too far.” Breitbart.com called the 104 “mostly long-retired or recently fired moderate, establishment Republicans” and the move a “spiteful strike against the voters of Kansas who threw many of them out of office.” Closer to home, former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays initially tweeted, “I was surprised at the list of R’s endorsing Rep. Davis. I actually thought about 1/3 of them had died.” A later tweet apologized for his “intemperate, insensitive remark…. I violated my own rules & philosophy regarding political discourse.”

Secretary of state race also getting some notice

Scott Morgan, candidate for Kansas Secretary of State.  2014Kansas’ gubernatorial race is receiving a lot of national media attention, but the GOP primary in the secretary of state race also is starting to get some notice. Scott Morgan (in photo), who is challenging incumbent Kris Kobach, appeared this week on the “All In With Chris Hayes” show on MSNBC. Morgan, who served as a staff member to former Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, acknowledged that it will be difficult to win in a GOP primary, but he felt compelled to run. “At some point you have to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t us; we’re better than this.’” Morgan said that Kansans may not be flashy but we are decent. “We can be kind to each other,” he said, “and we don’t have to fan fear all the time.”

WuShock is unusual, but is it creepy?

wushockmascotWichita State University’s WuShock was named “the creepiest mascot” in a New York Post article this week. “Who knew a shock of wheat could be this angry?” the article asked. No. 2 on the list was the old Burger King mascot, with its leering plastic grin. OK, that one really was creepy. WSU wasn’t the only Missouri Valley Conference school to make the ranking. Little Egypt, the Egyptian hunting dog mascot of Southern Illinois University, was ranked the sixth creepiest. “Why not be more honest and call this one ‘Angry Mullet Head’?” the paper asked.

Davis backers include area school board members

davis,paulThe 104 current and former Republican officials who are endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (in photo) include several area school board members, reflecting the strained relationship between school districts and Gov. Sam Brownback. “As a 13-year local board of education member, I know four more years of the current governor will not be good for kids or Kansas,” Wichita school board member Lynn Rogers said. Other area GOP school board members include Gail Jamison, Sara McDonald and Kevin McWhorter of Goddard; Roger Elliott of Andover; and Janet Sprecker of Derby. Carol Rupe Linnens, former member of both the Wichita school board and the Kansas State Board of Education, spoke at the announcement event in Topeka Tuesday. “We need a governor who values our schools and makes them a top priority,” she said.

Brownback: Preserving environment is conservative, biblical

environmentGov. Sam Brownback noted in an NBC News interview that environmental issues haven’t “been an area of interest in my wing of the Republican Party – the conservative wing of the party.” But he argued that it’s a natural fit. “To conserve and be responsible for our natural resources is a very conservative position to take,” he said. “But it’s also about taking care of what God gave you.” In addition to his efforts to preserve the state’s water supply, Brownback noted the investment in Kansas in wind energy. “I think God gave us a beautiful place,” Brownback said. “He gave us a fabulous aquifer. And I think we need to be responsible with that and see that future generations can use that as well.”

No wonder farm groups aren’t backing Huelskamp

huelskamp,timThe decision by top Kansas farm groups not to endorse Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, speaks a thousand words about Huelskamp’s misplaced priorities and belligerent behavior. Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association refused to endorse Huelskamp, who was kicked off the House Agriculture Committee and has voted repeatedly against farm bills. And this wasn’t an insider decision; local committees in each county in Huelskamp’s district voted on whom Farm Bureau should endorse. Though Huelskamp’s combative, uncompromising style gets him bookings on cable TV talk shows, it has made him an ineffective representative for the farmers and ranchers in his district – and anyone else who wants to see results, not just “no” votes.

Alarm ordinance sounds like ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’

firetruckwichitaThe city clearly has a problem with security and fire false alarms, and especially with chronic abusers who owe more than $800,000 in false-alarm penalties. The proposed ordinance on the Tuesday agenda of the Wichita City Council could help, including by transferring responsibility for initial registration from alarm companies to users. But council members need to be cautious about refusing to respond to alarms when a residence or business has had more than six false alarms during a 12-month registration period and/or has failed to pay fees or penalties. Yes, ignoring a fire or security alarm in such cases could free up police and trucks for real emergencies, while saving taxpayers money. But “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” seems a questionable model for public safety.

Maybe Brownback should avoid medical metaphors

brownbackofficialmugGov. Sam Brownback’s claim that Kansas tax cuts would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy” hasn’t panned out. So he recently switched medical metaphors, likening the tax plan to going through surgery. “It takes a while to heal and get growing afterwards,” he told the Wall Street Journal. But the new metaphor is still providing fodder for critics. A New York Times editorial this week observed that “it’s not clear the patient can recover from this surgery,” noting that the state could blow through all its cash reserves by the end of this new fiscal year. Steve Thorngate wrote in Christian Century that “the operation was entirely elective, motivated by not necessity but ideology,” and he warned others to “look to Kansas and see what very concrete things happen when lawmakers choose to starve their own government.”

Glickman’s tips for democracy

congressinsessionIn Politico magazine, former Wichita congressman Dan Glickman and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe proposed “Ten Ways to Strengthen Democracy.” Among their ideas to “fix the electoral process, return Congress to legislating and enhance public service”: Increase primary participation with a single June primary date for congressional primaries and more open primaries. Let special commissions handle redistricting. Increase disclosure of political contributions, including those made to independent groups, and of spending by congressional leadership PACs. Reform the filibuster and Senate debate. Empower congressional committees. Adopt a biennial budget cycle. Synchronize House and Senate workweeks. And “the president and congressional leadership should hold regular monthly meetings.” Glickman and Snowe co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Environmental Study Finds Air in Chicago Now 75% Bullets

Criminal Prosecuted to Fullest Extent of Budget

People Who Call Obama Worst President Since Second World War Also Blame Him for Starting It

Bored Scientists Now Just Sticking Random Things Into Large Hadron Collider

Report: Half of All Americans Probably Should Have Thought of That Before They Opened Their Mouth

Tiahrt not impressed by 57 votes against Obamacare

tiahrtnewmugA campaign commercial by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, brags that he has voted 57 times against Obamacare. His GOP primary opponent, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, isn’t impressed. Somewhere between the seventh and 57th vote they should have figured out it wouldn’t work, Tiahrt told The Eagle editorial board. The GOP House needs to pick its fights wisely, Tiahrt said, and use its power over the purse strings to get what it wants. Pompeo concedes that “there is a little bit of repetition” to some of the votes. But he told the editorial board that the Affordable Care Act is such an enormous change that House Republicans have an obligation to continue to make their case and express their vision.

Can’t blame all of revenue drop on capital gains

taxrevenueFormer state budget director Duane Goossen raised more doubts about the Brownback administration’s claim that federal tax policies caused the state to miss its revenue estimates by $338 million during the past three months. Even if $3 billion in capital gains income was shifted from the 2013 tax year to 2012 (which Goossen points out is highly improbable, as $3 billion would be the entire amount of capital gains income for Kansans in an average year), at most that might have resulted in a reduction of $147 million in state income tax collections in fiscal year 2014 (assuming that the entire amount was taxed at the highest rate). That’s less than half as much as the estimates were off. All total, Kansas collected $726 million less in tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s more than the tax drop during the entire Great Recession, Goossen noted, when revenue fell $618 million during a three-year period.

Still too many Kansans lacking health insurance

doctoroutAbout 359,000 Kansans – or 12.6 percent of the population – were uninsured in 2012, according to a new report by the Kansas Health Institute. The national average was 14.8 percent. In Sedgwick County, the uninsured rate was 15.5 percent. Two-thirds of uninsured Kansans have family incomes above the federal poverty level ($23,050 annually for a family of four in 2012), KHI reported, and more than three out of four uninsured Kansas adults are working. Though the current uninsured rate is not known, more than 57,000 Kansans signed up for health coverage through the insurance marketplace, according to federal data. That total doesn’t include Kansans 26 and younger who are now receiving health insurance through their parents’ plans, as part of the Affordable Care Act. More than 75,000 additional Kansans could be insured if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature would allow a federal expansion of Medicaid.

‘Religious freedom’ bill likely to be back

gayweddingcakeGiven that a recent federal appeals court ruling puts Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban in jeopardy, it’s not surprising that some are planning another push next legislative session to pass a “religious freedom” law. The Kansas House passed a bill this past session that would grant additional legal protections to those who don’t want to accommodate same-sex couples for religious reasons. But the bill immediately died in the Senate after opposition from the business community, gay rights groups and others who said the bill sought to legalize discrimination. “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Wichita pastor Terry Fox told Associated Press. Thomas Witt of Wichita, executive director of Equality Kansas, also expects the issue to resurface next session. “I don’t think they’re going to stop their attacks,” he said.

Pro-con: Is soccer winning over Americans?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaUnbelievably, World Cup soccer has become the topic of conversation around the watercooler at work. In recent weeks television ratings for the sport have soared, with games involving Team USA equaling the recent NBA finals and surpassing baseball’s World Series. Watch parties drew tens of thousands nationwide and huge crowds at AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Soldier Field in Chicago. This time around America embraced the “beautiful game” of stunning goals and incomprehensible offsides, joyous nationalism and comic-looking flops. For decades, kids in this country, as in the rest of the world, have grown up playing soccer. Drive through suburbia on the weekends, and you’ll see fields upon fields of tykes chasing a speckled ball. Until now, that’s where the infatuation has ended. Once kids stopped playing the game, they fell into the more traditional viewing habits of college football on Saturdays, the National Football League on Sundays, with a baseball and college basketball game when there was more at stake. Yet this time around more Americans checked out the World Cup than ever before, and they often enjoyed what they saw. For once you give the beautiful game a long look, as the rest of the world knows, it’s difficult to turn away. – Tim Wendel, Johns Hopkins University

Soccer is easy to mock. In what other sport can we compile a scorecard of the number of ersatz “injuries” or the time the supposedly injured players spent writhing on the ground? But I am not here to mock. I’ve tried to like soccer. It seemed like the open-minded thing to do. Let me set the stage: It is the summer of 1994 and I am a graduate student living in London. The dormitory in which I lived had a summertime influx of Italian students who, in a gratifying example of international outreach, insisted that I watch the World Cup with them. I did so, game in and game out, as an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill. And, to the joy of my newfound compatriots, Italy progressed all the way to the final against mighty Brazil. And so we watched what I was told would be the pinnacle of sporting endeavor. For 90 minutes we watched. And no one scored. We watched through extra time. And still no one scored. At last the game was settled through a shootout, in which the goalie guesses at which side of the goal the opposing player will kick the ball and dives in that general direction. Italy’s goalie guessed wrong and Brazil walked off the World Cup champions. A coin flip might have been slightly less dramatic, but the effect was pretty much the same. This helps explain why soccer may be the world’s sport, but not yet America’s. – Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute

Open thread (July 11)

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DCF also deserves rebuke in Henderson case

gavelSedgwick County District Court Judge Timothy Henderson isn’t the only one who deserves a rebuke. So does the Kansas Department for Children and Families. In addition to recommending that Henderson be censured for harassing women attorneys, the state’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications concluded that Henderson wrongly sent an e-mail informing officials with DCF that Wichita attorney Martin Bauer used to handle birth adoptions associated with Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller and had supported “gay adoptions.” The e-mail was sent to Jeff Kahrs, chief of staff at DCF, and Diane Bidwell, then head of DCF’s Wichita office. Bauer had handled some adult guardianship cases for DCF, but after receiving the e-mail, DCF removed Bauer and his law firm, Martin Pringle, from its appointment list. The commission ruled that Henderson “inappropriately mixed his personal views on sociopolitical issues” with his official duties. So did DCF.

Congress unlikely to pass budget on time

congressclockCongress is running out of time to pass a budget, and the likelihood of it doing so by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 is looking slim. “The House has passed only five of the 12 required appropriations bills while the Senate is batting zero on them,” the Concord Coalition reported. The fiscal watchdog group warned: “Failure to act in a timely manner risks another costly government shutdown or one enormous and unwieldy omnibus bill that lumps all unfinished business together.”

Open thread (July 10)

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Local governments grasping for cuts, revenue

moneystretchJuly is budgeting time for Kansas’ cities and counties, which means tough choices any year but especially for 2015. This week the Douglas County administrator proposed a property tax increase of 3.85 mills, in part to offset the loss of revenue from the Legislature’s repeal of the mortgage registration fee, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. And the Finney County Commission proposed a budget that slightly lowers the mill levy but includes a 10 percent across-the-board cut to funding for outside agencies that serve seniors, the mentally ill and children, among others, the Garden City Telegram reported. “We can’t fund it all and keep taxpayers happy,” Finney County Commission Chairman Larry Jones said.

No surprise that KochPAC prefers Pompeo

pompeo2“KochPAC is proud to support Mike Pompeo for Congress based on his strong support for market-based policies and economic freedom, which benefits society as a whole,” Mark Nichols, vice president of government and public affairs for Koch Industries, told Politico. That’s not surprising, as the Wichita Republican has been closely associated, politically and ideologically, with Koch Industries. Some liberal groups even call Pompeo the congressman from Koch. But Koch had also been a longtime backer of Pompeo’s opponent, Todd Tiahrt. The former representative received nearly $330,000 from Koch’s political action committee and Koch employees during his eight terms in Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Open thread (July 9)

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Turnpike overlook would be welcome addition

flinthillsLess is more when it comes to development along the stretch of the Kansas Turnpike that runs through the expansive Flint Hills, which are as close as contemporary America comes to the vast tallgrass prairie that pioneers experienced. But it would be great to see the addition of a scenic overlook, which is being considered by the Kansas Turnpike Authority in conjunction with improvements planned near milepost 111 in Chase County. That’s the point along I-35 with on and off ramps that serve cattle ranchers. If approved by the KTA board, the overlook might be constructed in spring 2015. As Sandy Kramer, director of the Chase County Chamber of Commerce, told the Lawrence Journal-World: “We would hope that this outlook would be an opportunity for people to stop, take a breath and just fully engage in what it is they’re seeing.”